What is a cervical spine X-ray?
Cervical spine X-rays/neck X-rays are scans performed by a technician to help a physician or radiologist in the diagnosis of disorders or defects in the neck region. Because these X-rays are used to examine the cervical vertebrae, neck X-rays are sometimes referred to as cervical spine X-rays. This imaging technology is usually employed for identifying broken or cracked bones but can provide the images of surrounding tissues as well. The cervical vertebrae are seven neck bones that cover and protect the upper region of the spinal cord. They include the first vertebrae of the thoracic spine. Cervical spine X-rays are also called as C-Spine X-rays and cervical X-rays.
Cervical spine X-ray operates by projecting electromagnetic energy rays and radiation into the part of the neck being examined with little exposure to radiation. Then, an X-ray film is generated with these black-and-white pictures after X-rays have been projected onto a screen. Bones and other solid substances obstruct the X-ray light, which is why they appear white on the film. Because the soft tissue permits the beam to flow through, it seems lighter. Thus, the light source will pass through if there is a crack or fracture in the bone, exposing a black line, and this is how medical professionals can tell if the bone is damaged.
X-rays are generally always requested following an orthopaedic’s appointment. A doctor will request an X-ray if they believe the patient has a broken or cracked bone.
Cervical spine X-ray Indications
There are several applications for cervical spine X-rays. The neck is highly susceptible to an injury. This is especially prevalent in cases of trips and falls, vehicle crashes, and sports when the neck’s ligaments and muscles are compelled to move beyond their usual range of motion. The cervical spine may also be harmed if your neck is broken or dislocated. When a patient is suffering from discomfort, swollen tissues, or other anomalies in the neck region that requires an interior view of the organs, a cervical spine X-ray is employed to examine the said region of the neck. A cervical spine X-ray can assist a doctor in identifying the root cause of the issue. With the help of X-rays, a disease can be diagnosed, its growth can be monitored, a treatment strategy can be decided, and its effectiveness can be evaluated.
A C-Spine X-ray may aid in the following situations:
- Cervical spine X-rays might find cracks in the vertebrae of the neck or dislocations of the joints between the vertebrae.
- To diagnose the origin of the neck, upper back, arm, and shoulder pain, a cervical spine X-ray is used.
- A cervical spine X-ray can help identify the source of the arm or hand numbness, tingling, or weakening.
- After a serious accident that leaves a patient with a head, neck, or back injury, a doctor will ask for an X-ray of the cervical vertebrae and neck.
- If a patient is having cervical spine surgery, an X-ray of the spine is required. It helps in planning and evaluating before the procedure.
- It can also help diagnose the conditions such as congenital abnormalities, the degeneration of disks, fractured bones, broken bones, spondylolisthesis, arthritis, scoliosis, and kyphosis.
- Additionally, cervical spine X-rays can assist medical professionals in determining whether the neck bones are infected, have tumours, or have other abnormalities.
Preparations for cervical spine X-ray
There is no specific preparation needed for a cervical X-ray. The technician might request you to take off any metallic objects from your body before the examination. This is because metallic objects will hinder the testing procedure and obstruct photographs, making it impossible for a technician to detect the soft tissues and bones in that location. Piercings, jewellery, eyeglasses, and watches are some of these metal items. Before the assessment, you should let the technician know whether you have any permanent metal implants in your body, such as cardiac pacemakers or implants for a fractured bone. Before performing the scan, you should take off any makeup or hair spray that may contain metal fragments.
Advantages of cervical spine X-ray
The use of cervical spine X-rays is widespread for the reasons listed below:
- X-rays are not painful and aren’t harmful in small quantities.
- X-rays are very rapid; frequently, the findings can be obtained in just a couple of days.
- C-spine X-ray is a fast and easy technique to find out if you are suffering from a fracture or fractured bone, and it is particularly helpful in diagnosing several disorders.
- In contrast to computed tomography or an MRI exam, it is affordable.
- Injuries to the neck and persistent numbness, discomfort, or weakness are examined with an X-ray.
- A cervical spine X-ray additionally has the potential to determine whether something is stuck inside the respiratory tract or if there is oedema in the neck obstructing the airways.
Risks of a cervical spine X-ray
X-rays are extremely safe and normally cause no consequences or negative effects. A single X-ray only uses a tiny amount of radiation. However, the risk of radiation exposure complications rises if you get multiple X-rays. If you’ve already undergone several X-rays, let your doctor know. They can determine your degree of radiation exposure risk. A lead shield may typically be placed over body portions that aren’t being analysed to lower the chance of exposing those parts to X-rays.
Radiation sensitivity in kids is extremely high. To shield their genitals from the radiation, they will be handed lead shields that shield their abdomens. Women who are pregnant should also be cautious. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant and will need a cervical spine X-ray. To prevent radiation from affecting your unborn child, a lead belt will be placed around your abdomen.